Jordan’s Top 5 Teen Party Movies
High school movies are the best. I love the powder keg you get from compressing a bunch of hormonally charged and emotionally insecure creatures somewhere between children and adults in one location and letting them simmer together for four years, and the intense drama and hilarity that comes out of treating everything like it’s the highest possible stakes (especially when you realize just how silly and small it was in hindsight). Those “coming of age” stories were a huge inspiration in creating Teenage Wasteland, an improvised epic teen party that takes place in that strange land between high school and college, when the person you thought you were and everything you were so certain was important suddenly has to face an uncertain future of becoming something else entirely. Here are some of my favorites…
1. Can’t Hardly Wait
This was really the spark that started it all for our show. It came out the summer before my own senior year in high school, and I was immediately charmed. The characters are broadly drawn and the antics are wacky, but there’s real heart and emotional resonance to what they’re going through. Everybody wanted something, everybody was searching, and everybody found so much more than they were originally looking for.
2. Dazed and Confused
A glimpse into a bygone era that seemed both cooler and more dangerous when I first saw it. There were no hazing rituals between middle school and high school for me and my friends, but it was also much more difficult…er, I mean IMPOSSIBLE to get our hands on beer or drugs. Rebellion seemed so much easier back then, but also like it mattered more. And all I wanted in the world was to have a night like that, to feel like one of the cool kids, drink a beer, smoke a joint, kiss a girl, get in a fight. Don’t we all?
3. The Breakfast Club
I watched a lot of movies as a kid, but this is the first one I remember all the way through. There’s no party, but when I was creating the show, my mind kept being drawn back to these five kids in detention, and how simple and strong it was telling their story over the course of one day in one location. I wanted to emulate a lot of that form and structure, and how it treats its characters. Everyone thought they were just one thing, including themselves. But that intense focus on character and relationship showed they were so much more (the problematic gender politics of the resolution of Ally Sheedy’s character arc aside. “Be pretty and not weird so boys will like you!” Ugh…).
4. Say Anything
I WAS Lloyd Dobler in high school. The weirdo loner with a penchant for trench coats, martial arts, rambling monologues, and Peter Gabriel. And I had an incarcerated parent, so I related to Diane Court as well. There’s an overwrought romanticism to them both that only teenagers can get away with. The “big party” is a relatively small part of the film, but it’s a turning point for both of them and I loved that notion of transition, that you could go into a night like this and become something else or someone else by the end.
5. 10 Things I Hate About You
Another film where the party is a small part, but the charm of the characters, the playfulness of the tone, and the notion of plots and schemes pushing romance and relationships around is as timeless as…well, Shakespeare!